Giant 3D printer can print buildings (theoretically)

3D Printing & Imaging
Giant 3D printer can print buildings (theoretically)

Blueprint Magazine describes a very neat machine:

In a small shed on an industrial park near Pisa is a machine that can print buildings. The machine itself looks like a prototype for the automotive industry. Four columns independently support a frame with a single armature on it. Driven by CAD software installed on a dust-covered computer terminal, the armature moves just millimetres above a pile of sand, expressing a magnesium-based solution from hundreds of nozzles on its lower side. It makes four passes. The layer dries and Enrico Dini recalibrates the armature frame. The system deposits the sand and then inorganic binding ink. The exercise is repeated. The millennia-long process of laying down sedimentary rock is accelerated into a day. A building emerges. This machine could be used to construct anything. Dini wants to build a cathedral with it. Or houses on the moon.

What do you think, readers? What would you build with a giant 3D printer that lays down sticky sand?

20 thoughts on “Giant 3D printer can print buildings (theoretically)

  1. says:

    Indoor rock climbing walls use holds made of resin, sometimes they have a roughened surface to make them more grippy. The use resin because they need to be cheap so they can be replaced as over time they get worn out.

    Climbing walls used to have actual rock, but it got polished quickly and became unpleasant to climb. Could this be used to make modular climbing walls or holds?

  2. says:

    You can use this to build smallish compression structures, but anything that will experience tension is out. Unless some way can be found to embed steel rods?

    1. bitSavvy says:

      Assuming that the chunks of rock were not too monolithic could spray a coating of structural stucco onto the rock after you were done printing it. I think that fiberglass is the thread type used in the stucco but kevlar could be used for even more strength.

      If you’re interested check out the kevlar wraps for brick walls to protect against bombs, or the structural stucco used with dry stacked concrete block constructions.

  3. Nightstar says:

    Looks like a new age has started…

    But the interesting thing is how big this dust 3D printer was scaled up!

  4. Alan says:

    I’d build structures that could be submerged at diver-friendly depths offshore, to form artificial reefs with maximum surface area and interesting nooks and crannies.

  5. rallen says:

    When I tried to go to the hosting site:

    I got a warning saying that elements from were detected, which appear to host malware.

    Can anyone confirm? Or provide a safe link?

  6. metis says:

    someone had a CNC concrete printer a few years back. i’m not finding a linky, but it extruded concrete in layers and could “print” a building in place. the idea ws you set up the machine, feed it aggregate and water, and it does it’s thing producing savings on labor. i like the sand deposition, but i’m not seeing architecture implications as much as art.

    yes, architecture includes art, but i don’t see the structure and function of a building being served as well as the possibility to make some *really* cool sculptures and toys.

  7. Shadyman says:

    Sticky sandcastles, obviously!

  8. rmadams says:

    As pointed out by metis- the technique is called “contour crafting” and they have a pretty comprehensive website with a lot of information and some cool animations, too.

    I think it is a really cool idea to print a whole neighborhood at once…

  9. says:

    This reminds me to some extent of the Edison poured concrete house. Single-piece home made by pouring concrete into a giant iron molds.

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My interests include writing, electronics, RPGs, scifi, hackers & hackerspaces, 3D printing, building sets & toys. @johnbaichtal

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